Much has been written about the impacts of the pandemic on the world of business, especially the challenges associated with remote work and now the return to work and the hybrid workplace. Beyond workplace issues, perhaps the single greatest impact was how the pandemic sparked a flood of digital transformation initiatives, and that added incredible complexity to technology infrastructures at many companies, testing the limits of IT organizations to successfully implement and support this new way of doing business.
After the initial euphoria of success felt by IT teams during the pandemic, reality sank in. With nearly every company now a digital business, IT systems no longer have to simply run. They suddenly are the livelihood of the company. When you are a digital business, if IT doesn't perform, the business simply stops running.
Certainly, CIOs are used to losing sleep over operational challenges. I come from the industrial world, where operations are front and center, and keeping the business up and running is part of company culture – no matter what. Now, for digital businesses, that cultural mantra is the new reality for IT. Increasingly, boards of directors and CEOs are starting to ask tough questions of their CIOs: Is your team up to the challenge of digital business? How prepared are you to deal with the unexpected? Can the business count on IT to deliver?
In the language of the board, these questions touch on continuity, resiliency, and readiness – the three critical elements every CIO must now put front and center to succeed:
- Readiness – How to align all aspects of the organization to handle the challenges of being a digital business – people, processes, technology – while having visibility and observability of all aspects of IT.
- Continuity – Assuring the business can run even under the most unexpected circumstances – before and after a crisis – and examining practices to ensure essential services can continue to operate.
- Resilience – Companies that move beyond reactive, crisis response planning, and look to transition from risk management and readiness to a more permanent footing as part of strategic planning, are those that practice true resiliency.
To get a sense of how important this is to top executives, consider recent research conducted by the Federation of European Risk Managers and global management consultancy McKinsey & Company. With responses from more than 200 senior global executives, the study outlines how the pandemic has re-shaped a view of readiness and risk, with companies now looking at far broader categories of business operations for preparedness – beyond the traditionally narrow focus on financial risks. More than half of the executives surveyed now see risk and resilience as significantly more important directly because of the pandemic experience.
Of note was the need for foresight and the ability to stress test teams like IT against various scenarios. Digital and technology resilience were highlighted among the top four areas of resiliency focus – in addition to finance and operations. As McKinsey indicated, "The pandemic continues to highlight the need for secure and flexible technical infrastructure and the strong intersection of digitization within other resilience areas, including implementing work-from-home processes.”
To help ourselves and CIOs in general, my company developed a robust set of 40 KPIs that enable IT organizations to undertake self-examination of IT operations against seven criteria. The KPIs address a range of topics, including, for example, latency, response time, percentage of core applications with failover capabilities, average recovery time on critical apps, and the existence of disaster recovery planning.
These KPIs are designed to help IT teams take a critical look and form a living picture of the company’s tech stack and IT organization from a holistic perspective across seven readiness criteria:
- Visibility – Understanding what is going on in the IT landscape
- Recovery – The ability to continue operations despite disruptions
- Trust – Confidence in technology systems and personnel
- Experience – Delivery of a positive and effective user experience
- Consistency – Ability of the technology to reliably perform to expectations
- Human Factors – Understanding the capabilities, motivation, and empowerment of the people behind the technology.
We've shared this assessment on our website simply to help IT teams who need to be able to assess their own capabilities and address strategically and operationally against these areas of leadership focus. Those CIOs who can take a critical internal look will be best prepared to respond to board inquiries – those who don't take this on as a continuing priority may face review by outside third parties engaged by the CEO and Board to determine the IT organization's capabilities. Interestingly, just like companies need a higher degree of readiness, continuity, and resilience across the enterprise, so does the function of IT.
Ryan Worobel is Chief Information Officer of LogicMonitor.